For patients with CLL, clinically significant improvements linked with a 12-week HIIT+RT exercise program support its role in HRQOL.

Older people living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are at risk for cancer-specific complications, disability, and frailty, which can negatively affect health-related QOL (HRQOL), explains David B. Bartlett, PhD. “With 67% of new CLL cases occurring in individuals aged 65 and older, we are aware how changes in age-related physiology combined with cancer-related complications in this patient population can affect HRQOL,” he adds. “Older adults with CLL are at greater risk for secondary cancers, infections, and comorbidities, compared with younger people with CLL. In addition, the loss of physical function that often accompanies CLL can negatively affect QOL. Therefore, we saw a need for interventions that lessen CLL-specific symptoms and reduce losses in physical function while improving QOL.”

For a study published in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology, Dr. Bartlett and colleagues assessed the effects of a 12-week intervention of high-intensity interval training and resistance training (HIIT+RT) on HRQOL in adults with treatment-naïve CLL.

No Prior Research on HIIT or RT for CLL

Previous research has shown that HIIT+RT are safe and effective for people living with chronic diseases, Dr. Bartlett notes. “When combined, they may help reduce symptom burden and cancer-related fatigue, thereby improving QOL,” he says, adding that, however, no studies have yet examined the impact of HIIT or RT on HRQOL in CLL.

Dr. Bartlett and colleagues non-randomly assigned patients with CLL (aged 63±8.5) to 12 weeks of HIIT+RT or a control group. Those in the HIIT+RT group participated in three 30-minute sessions per week of HIIT and two sessions of RT, while the control group participated in usual daily activities. Pre- and post-HRQOL were assessed using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Lymphoma questionnaire with domains of emotional, functional (FWB), physical, social, and general well-being, as well as a lymphoma-specific subscale (LymS).

HIIT+RT Led to Clinically Significant Improvements

Dr. Bartlett and colleagues observed that, following HIIT+RT, FWB scores improved in patients in the intervention group (21.7±3.4 to 23.9±3.2; ES=1.38) compared with those in the control group (25.7±2.2 to 25.7±2.3).

“The HIIT+RT group experienced clinically meaningful improvements in functional well-being, general well-being, and symptoms specific to CLL, while the control group had clinically significant changes only in LymS,” Dr. Bartlett notes. “The large effect sizes and clinically meaningful improvements linked with 12 weeks of HIIT+RT support the potential benefits of this exercise program for general well-being, FWB, and lymphoma-specific symptoms.”

The researchers added that the findings suggest that 12 weeks of HIIT+RT may maintain and improve HRQOL in patients with CLL before they require therapies that typically worsen their QOL. However, they note that future randomized trials with robust sample sizes are needed to confirm these results and assess the long-term effects of exercise on HRQOL. Specifically, Dr. Bartlett and colleagues would like to see future research address the frequency, intensity, optimal mode, and duration of HIIT+RT for people with CLL, especially older patients and those experiencing a high degree of HRQOL impairment.